The mission of Douglass Community Services is to be a trusted partner in building stronger kids, stronger families and stronger communities throughout Northeast Missouri. In 2020, the Food Pantry provided 48% more food than in 2019. We saw a 25% increase in clients. 45% of the food provided was fruits, vegetables, or proteins and 90,311 meals were served to youth. Douglass Community Service is honored to be on the frontlines fighting hunger in our community. Other services offered by Douglass Community Services are a Head Start/ Early Head Start learning program, Kids in Motion (a youth pre-employment/service-learning program), and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Dignity affirms that a person has the right to be valued and respected, and to be treated ethically. How can we uphold this in mission and service work? This takes conscious action on our part to evaluate the programs, services, and language we use. You might have heard before the difference of a “hand up” and a “hand out.” There is value in addressing the immediate needs of a human being, providing them food, water, clothing, or shelter. Jesus provided many healing ministries to people and we celebrate the opportunity to do so for our siblings in Christ. Once the immediate need is met, the next step should be working together with that person to see what their goals or desires are for the longer term. If they are unhoused, maybe they need help getting connected to an organization that has a work exchange program. Or if they are unemployed, maybe they could use support in terms of job skills training or resume writing. There are a variety of ways to show support and encouragement to someone using their own skills and abilities coupled with access to resources. Ultimately, our words and actions in mission and service work should uplift people through recognizing and building upon their gifts and talents.
*Story also featured on page 21 of the June 2021 Missouri Methodist magazine.
Responding to concerns of hunger and poverty has been a long-time commitment of Festival of Sharing. The response has taken many forms throughout the years- from dividing bulk rice and beans and filling family food boxes to packing meals for Rise Against Hunger and raising money for farm animals through Heifer International. As we recognize the various ways hunger and food insecurity impact communities in Missouri and beyond, we are called to opportunities for growth and development in our responses. This spring, Festival of Sharing invited agency partners in Missouri to apply for Growing Access Grants. The funds aim to support projects, programs, or services that address hunger, food insecurity, or nutrition. Many great applications were received and respond to local needs through education, hands on experiences, and expanding nutritional options. A total of $6,400 was distributed across 9 agencies serving various populations across Missouri.
The awardees include Food for Morgan County, Migrant Farmworkers Assistance Fund, Christos Center, Hillsboro Food pantry, Cornerstones of Care (KC), Loaves and Fishes of Maries County, Whole Health Outreach, Victory Mission, and LifeWise StL. Festival of Sharing is excited for the recipients. They are passionate about community members of all ages having access to nourishing food. They demonstrate how education can be more than knowledge; it’s empowerment and inspiration. They are investing in their communities and we are honored to provide support and encouragement for their work. The programs range from teen cooking classes and mobile food pantries to container gardening, increasing protein intake for elderly, and supporting the nutrition of at-risk teens. A partnership with MU Extension will provide a diabetes self-management class, local pork will be distributed, and low-income families will be led through self-sufficiency activities. Scott Walker, President/CEO of LifeWise StL, expressed gratitude for the funds to help supply food to their families. "It will be used to buy fresh produce. We strive to give our participants access to healthy and fresh food options which tend to be more expensive than canned food (high salt content) and other processed food options. We value the partnership with Festival of Sharing and appreciate the work you do.”
We are hopeful the opportunity will present itself to offer the Growing Access Grants again next spring. Most of our in-kind gifts are shared with agencies through the Sharefests in the fall. We are grateful for the monetary donations received throughout the year helping us to extend this supplemental gift to the agencies this spring. For those interested in supporting this response, checks can be written to MOAC with Festival of Sharing- Missouri Hunger in the memo line. They can be mailed to Festival of Sharing, 3601 Amron Court, Columbia, MO 65202.
It’s time for our May Agency Highlight! This time we’re cruising down to the lake area for Share the Harvest Food Pantry and Clothes Closet in Camdenton. About 17 years ago a group of volunteers noticed a need for food for youth and their families, thus the pantry began as a small operation. As the pantry grew, the decision was made to add the thrift store to help sustain the pantry resources. The pantry also has a garden on site that brings fresh produce to families and they provide financial assistance for a variety of needs like medical or electric bills. During the pandemic, the number of neighbors they serve stayed about the same and decreased slightly in the summer as other local organizations offered services and resources. Share the Harvest really appreciates the blankets and dental kits- especially during flu season and the pandemic.
This year we’ve highlighted a variety of terms connected with poverty and development work. We thought it might be helpful to take a moment and recap what we’ve learned. January highlighted adverse childhood experiences (ACE) which are potentially stressful or traumatic events in childhood, such as abuse or neglect. ACEs impact children’s development, physical health, and ability to form healthy and stable relationships. ACESs are preventable through actions that strengthen economic support to families, promote social norms that protect against violence, connecting youth to caring adults, and more. February covered social capital, or the functioning of social groups through interpersonal relationships, shared sense of identity and understanding, and shared trust and cooperation. Social capital is a positive asset that every community has and can be used to strengthen resources and opportunities. These two terms reflect the different impacts relationships can have on our well-being and way we live and work in society.
In March we discussed housing cost burden, which is when someone spends more than 30% of their income on housing costs. If they spend more than 50% of income, that person is severely cost burdened. This is important in Missouri because of the number of households renting (33.2% of Missouri households) with an average rental cost on a 2-bedroom apartment ranging from $646-953. In April we reviewed asset poverty, or a household’s inability to access wealth resources that are sufficient to provide for basic needs for a period of three months. And then in May we defined living wage as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs (needs include food, housing, and other essentials such as clothing). If we think about the relationship of concepts like housing cost burden, asset poverty, and living wage, we start to uncover the complexities of poverty that make it challenging to overcome.
We hope that through reviewing definitions and concepts, we can start to recognize connections and opportunities to make a difference in our communities.
Founded in 1910 by United Methodist Women, InterServ has been serving the St. Joseph area for 111 years. First as a response to lack of nutrition in immigrants working in packing plants, the women opened a milk pantry which has evolved into the food pantry they have today. They also noticed a lot of women were working in packing plants, so they opened a daycare, which remains today. Staff member, Stacy, says that through the years InterServ has been looked at as an agency able to make change. They can look at the community, see what the need is, and fill the gaps. Along with the food pantry and daycare, InterServ also provides services such as in home and nutrition services for seniors, counseling, budget management, and youth after school programs.
In 2019 we encouraged United Methodist churches in Missouri to bring pieces of fleece to our Annual Conference meeting in Springfield. We had a mountain of fleece by the time the weekend was over. This was such a blessing for the rest of the year. We had a group of youth come in and prep the fleece- align two pieces, trim, roll, and bag them- to go to the Sharefests. At the Sharefests, small groups of people gathered around tables to finish the blankets by cutting and tying the fringe. This project was adored by many as it could be done while sitting down, didn't require heavy lifting, and offered the chance for people to have conversation while they were making something meaningful.
We still have groups and individuals who like making the fleece blankets, and we say go for it! The requests for blankets from agencies usually surpasses what we are able to collect. If you're looking for a relatively easy project you can do at home or in a small group, fleece blankets might be a good option for you. Below are some directions on how to make the blankets. Feel free to send us pictures or tag us on Facebook while you're making one!
This month we’re spotlighting Helping Hands Outreach Center of Gasconade County, located in Owensville. They distribute food three days a week, provide a mobile market monthly, support Backpack Buddies for around 40 students weekly, and host a special Operation Christmas distribution yearly. They accomplish this all entirely with volunteers. Board Vice President, Andrew, says it is rewarding to help people and to see the camaraderie between the volunteers from the area churches. About a year and a half ago they were able to move to a bigger facility with walk in coolers.
Festival of Sharing has participated in the Best Choice Save-a-Label program for many years. The program helps nonprofits raise money by awarding $.03 for each Best Choice UPC label redeemed. This is a great (and easy!) opportunity to support Festival of Sharing from your home all year-long.
Here is how you participate: Buy Best Choice brand products in your local grocery store. Cut the entire UPC barcode label off the packaging. Collect as many as you can! When it is time to turn them in, count them and place them in a Ziploc bag. Please make sure to label on the outside how many you have collected! You can even register your church as an agency to help us get a bonus coupon each year. More information at https://bestchoicebrand.com/save-a-label/.
Once we receive all donations, we will combine them into bundles of 1,000 and send them off for redemption. The money earned is used towards hunger projects throughout the year.
February is often revered as the month of love. Jesus poured out his love for us and in turn we show His love to the world through our words and actions. We thought this would be a great month to highlight our Backpacks of Love and their accompanying blankets. Our backpacks are a small token of love that we put together for children around Missouri who might be in a situation where they can’t access their belongings or need a few basic necessities.
It all starts with a backpack. Did you ever get to pick out your school bag at the beginning of the year? That feeling of excitement in getting to decide what color or design you would sport that year is the same excitement you can spark in a child by giving them a bag that can belong to just them. Once you have picked out the perfect backpack, you get to pick out the matching contents for inside. If you are planning to do a young boy’s backpack, you would get a children’s medium t-shirt, a small pair of socks, and 3 pair of small or medium underpants (ones with cartoon characters are always fun!). Then you can add a small stuffed animal/toy, like a dinosaur, a child sized toothbrush and flavored toothpaste, and finally a narrow tooth comb.
We know these items can add up quick, so it is never a problem to visit a good sale or clearance rack. We have even found backpacks at Wal-Mart for about $5 after all the hustle and bustle of back-to-school time. We do appreciate when the items are new and unused as it shows we care about the child’s comfort and dignity.
Once your backpack is stuffed, you can send it to a Sharefest event. After all the events, a group will come help us sort them by size and gender. At that time we will add the blanket of love. These are traditionally handmade blankets that are about 36x45 inches in size. It is always fun to find a blanket to match the theme or colors of the backpack!
After the backpacks are all sorted and counted, they get distributed to agencies such as the Columbia Foster and Adoption Program, Great Circle, God’s Helping Hands (STL), and various CASA programs across the state. The agency representatives who pick them up are always so grateful for the gifts and excited to share them with the children they serve. This reminds us how important it is to share God’s love with children in our communities.